Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Day Brunch for Eight

Do you want to just sleep away New Year's Day?

Maybe you want coffee and coffee and coffee and coffee... and maybe a football game later. Much later.

But if you'd like a touching, warm beginning for the New Year (and, honey, it really is 2010), this sweet and savory meal is for you. You might not need anything else the rest of the day.. especially if you don't make it until 3pm. Smile.

I'm praying your Christmas and Hanukkah were great... This is just the eighth day of Christmas; did I do the math right?

8 maids a milking.................. Whoa. Just the thought makes my hands hurt.

Our tree stays up for the 12 days of Christmas. When the wise men arrive on January 6 is when I'm comfortable beginning to take down an ornament or two. Why not give it it's full due?

Epiphany is an incredible season of its own. I love the word


Look it up and read the definitions. You need an epiphany; I know. I do, too.

Meantime, the menu.

Pomegranate Sparkler
Fresh Fruit Salad
Balsamic Fried Tomatoes
Sweet Potato and Black Forest Ham Frittata
Whole wheat toast/butter and jam
Stollen (an easy one)
Coffee, Coffee, Coffee, Coffee

Recipes are in the order in which you should make them.........
Make your coffee just how you like it. Make lots.


Into each of eight flutes, pour equal amounts of pomegranate juice and champagne or cava (an inexpensive and super Spanish sparkler) or prosecco. No New Year's Resolutions needed.
A few frozen raspberries or cranberries in the bottom of the glasses add a dash of seasonal red.

2 loaves. Each serves 8-10.
Great to make ahead and freeze. This recipe makes two. Keep one for later or take one to a friend. This is an easy stollen... not to worry about a thing. If you can make banana bread, this is just a T-tiny step above. No yeast. The original recipe that I've changed over a couple of years and bakings at sea level and at altitude came from Susan Westmoreland @ GOOD HOUSEKEEPING, linked here.

2 c ricotta cheese
1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter
2 c dried tart cherries (other dried fruit works)
1 c toasted walnuts, chopped roughly
2 t vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
4 lrg eggs (use extra large at altitude)

4 2/3 c unbleached white flour
1 c white, granulated sugar
3 t baking powder
1/2 t kosher salt
Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease two large, rimmed cookie sheets or baking pans.
Mix together ricotta, cherries, nuts, vanilla, lemon peel and eggs. Set aside.
In food processor, mix (using steel blade) flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
Cut in cold butter and process until meal-like. Pour flour mixture into a large bowl. Mix in ricotta mixture by hand until the dough hangs together.
Do try this at home................or ask kids to help. They aren't afraid of bread!
You'll have a lovely dough by now and you need to turn it out onto a floured board or counter and divide it in half. With floured hands, gently knead each piece of dough about three times. With floured rolling pin, roll one piece of dough into 10'' by 8'' oval. Fold oval lengthwise, bringing top half over or that the bottom of dough extends by one inch. Repeat for second
piece of dough.

Pat /roll out; roll over.......Place each stollen on a prepared baking sheet. Bake about an hour until lightly browned and toothpick placed in center of bread comes out clean. Transfer bread to wire racks and cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar. Slice as desired. 1 1/2 inches is good serving.
Wrap extra stollen in double layer of foil and freeze or deliver to friend.


Cut up 2 cups each of four of your favorite winter fruits and mix well in large bowl. If desired, mix in 1/2 c sour cream and top with shredded coconut.

Suggestions: Apples, oranges, grapes, bananas, pineapples.......Whatever's good at your market!


Slice two large tomatoes and saute them in a little oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add 2 T top-quality balsamic vinegar and cook 1-2 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Set aside and serve with frittata.


2T olive oil
2 small red potatoes, chopped roughly
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
1/2 large onion, diced
1/2# asparagus, chopped (remove bottom couple of inches)
1/4# Black Forest ham, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
8 eggs, well beaten
1 c Gruyere cheese, grated
1/2 c Parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a large (12-14") skillet, measure oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add both kinds of potatoes and onions. Saute until tender, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes. Add asparagus and ham and saute until the crisp has just worn off the asparagus. Add beaten eggs and cook, stirring, for five minutes or so, stirring often. When the eggs are about half-cooked, add Gruyere cheese and place in oven. Bake until crispy and the eggs are set to your liking. Turn pan over onto large cutting board and shower with Parmesan. Cut into 8 pieces and let your friends or family serve themselves. (While frittata bakes, make your toast.)

Share with someone you love!
Happy New Year, you sing any new or "auld" song,

Alyce--Could there be anything better leftover? Add a little butter.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Ginger Cookies and Merry Christmas!

Before we begin with ginger cookies, a huge and wonderful Christmas cookie hug to all who participated in DROP IN AND DECORATE. I think we had 14 dozen incredible sugar, gingerbread and chocolate cut-out cookies, decorated to the nines, for our local Bridge, An Assisted Living Center. We tasted, we decorated, we had dinner, we played, we sang, we laughed and we got to be better friends. Perfect thanks to Lydia Walshin of The Perfect Pantry for the super idea (now in the eighth year) of holiday fun and "doin' good."
Lydia tells me she'll include a pic and a few sentences on the website after the first of the year. Eyes peeled. And: Let's do it next year!

Thanks to everyone who read and/or participated in the blog this year. At eight months old, it remains a joy and a learning experience nearly every day. Happy, Happy End of the Year. Enjoy more time at the table this week as we move into 2010.

(Now on to the the ginger cookies!)

Is there anything more Christmasy (food-wise) than a ginger cookie? I have so many foods and ideas to blog for Christmas (I'm making clam sauce today) that I don't know what to do. But things always boil down to cookies during Advent, don't they?

One year, I just had to figure out what was
What wouldn't it be Christmas without.
Or, what was Christmas....
You know. It's the year you decide to drop
ALL that decorating
ALL that shopping
ALL that worrying about when you'll get it wrapped...
ALL that pouting about "It's not like it was when ___________."
And you wonder,
"What is my very favorite thing about Christmas?
Do I need the tree?
Do I need the lights?
Do I need the Starbucks Peppermint Mocha?
Do I need the big party?
Do I need to go to the Nutcracker(again)?

As our priorities tumble and crumble and finally crystalize, we straighten out and fly right...
Knowing just exactly what we need at Christmas as we walk to the stable, waiting for the savior to be born in OUR hearts because we need to be new and clean and loving so very badly.
As I've walked (not run) each of the years since my priorities scrambled and came round right, I've discovered I like a couple of things best about Christmas:
1. Worship--Christmas Eve especially
2. Baking Christmas cookies for my family and friends
Well, gee, I guess you couldn't figure it out.
And, if I just had to name my very favorite cookie (and my children and husband each have theirs), I guess I would name
ALYCE'S GINGER COOKIES--a word or two about them:
These cookies are a cross between a cookie sold during Needlework Week at Woodlawn Plantation in Alexandria, Virginia (where I worked for several of my lovely years at the National Trust for Historic Preservation) and the cookies they sell in Coshocton, Ohio and are OH SO famous for.
These are not snaps, no, definitely not. They aren't the Gingerbread Girls of the Drop in and Decorate variety. They are cookies. Crispy and chewy at the same time. Sweet and spicy and even a tad "hot" all together. Throw out your old bottle of ginger and get a new one before you begin. These are why cookie jars were invented, my friends. Why kids come home. Why husbands raid the freezer middle of the night.
Make 'em; make 'em right. You'll always be tweaking them between the kinds of sheets and the oven temps.......... Are they done? Are they not? (Don't overbake them; they're toasty garbage.)
The recipe is a guide. You'll make them your way and they'll be your cookies. Eat them with milk. Eat them with hot tea. Eat them with coffee or hot cocoa. For capital G-Goodness sake, just make them and eat them. What else do you need? Part of Christmas is... well, it's just ginger cookies.

4 cups unbleached white flour
4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt (I like sea salt.)
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon (I like Penzey's Vietnamese cinnamon)
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 cups shortening ( I know, I know)
2 cups sugar (plus more for rolling)
1/2 cups molasses
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger*
2 eggs
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Beat well the shortening, sugar, molasses, egg and freshly-grated ginger until fluffy. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Shape into 1" balls. Roll in granulated white sugar and place on cookie sheet two inches apart. Bake until edges are quite dry, but centers are soft and still a tad gooey. If you overbake them, they're dunking cookies.
Let cookies sit on trays for 5-8 minutes. Remove from trays to cooling racks until completely cool. Store in airtight containers for 1-2 days. Freeze for up to 2 weeks if not using immediately.

*You can also (or instead of the grated ginger) add 1/4 cup finely chopped candied ginger.

I have a good friend named Ginger. This is for her. Merry Christmas, everyone...
Love you always, Alyce

Monday, December 14, 2009

Drop in and Decorate





SOUP BREAD BUTTER WINE (vegeterian lentil and chili con carne)


What a great time we had! We began decorating at 4pm and the last neighbor wandered back over for one more glass of wine about 9. We had

Three kinds of cookies:
Three kinds of icing (with food coloring for lots of colors- if you desired)
Regular (buttercream)
15 sprinkles (maybe more) We even had pearls!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Crushed Peppermint
Grated Chocolate
Altogether, we decorated about 14 dozen cookies for "The Bridge," an assisted living community here in Colorado Springs. Cookies will be delivered tomorrow.
Pics posted and then, loved ones, I'm in bed and ready for a 6am departure to Florida.
Gabby had a great time. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.......................................

Merry Christmas! Enjoy!!
Eat a new cookie,

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Drop in and Decorate! Monday, December 14, 2009


What an incredible evening! Fun, Friends, Food....... and COOKIES, CAROLS & COOKIES!!!

Here's a sampling of COOKIES and food::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

We will decorate three types of cookies:

Plain old Sugar Cookies from Fannie Farmer's Baking Book
Gingerbread People (from same) and Chocolate Cutouts (Martha Stewart)

We have several colors of icing and 15 different "sprinkles." We'll even have "pearls."

Cookies are to be donated to The Bridge (Assisted Living Center).

Please take a few to someone you know who no longer bakes. I have cellophane bags available.

Dinner: Your choice of Chili or Vegetarian Lentil Soup
French Bread from MARIGOLD'S CAFE
Wine: A-Z Riesling (Oregon)
Zinfandel (California)

Cocoa and
Coffee with, what else for dessert, your own decorated cookie!

Is there anything like a decorated cookie? Or any cookie cut into shapes? They're just plain old fun. Enjoy the following poem............ It makes me think of Christmas Cookies.

Animal Crackers became such a part of American life that Christopher Morley (1890-1957), American humorist, playwright, poet, essayist, and editor, wrote the following poem:

Animal Crackers
by Christopher Morley

Animal crackers and cocoa to drink,
That is the finest of suppers I think;
When I'm grown up and can have what I please
I think I shall always insist upon these.
What do YOU choose when you're offered a treat?
When Mother says, "What would you like best to eat?"
Is it waffles and syrup, or cinnamon toast?
It's cocoa and animals that I love most!
The kitchen's the coziest place that I know;
The kettle is singing, the stove is aglow,
And there in the twilight, how jolly to see
The cocoa and animals waiting for me.
Daddy and Mother dine later in state,
With Mary to cook for them, Susan to wait;
But they don't have nearly as much fun as I
Who eat in the kitchen with Nurse standing by;
And Daddy once said, he would like to be me --
Having cocoa and animals once more for tea!

I'm on the way to Florida on Tuesday to bake with my sister for a few days. I'll be back in time to make my wine group brunch, to do a clam sauce dinner for close friends, cassoulet on the 24th and so on. I'll attempt to blog it all, but probably won't accomplish it! Enjoy your holiday baking and cooking; it's no chore. Share it all, my friends.

Until then, enjoy your Advent journey.........
Walk, don't run, to the stable. You'll have more time to pray.

Sing a new carol.............Listen to all of the old ones......Plan on church for Christmas Eve......

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Pot Roast and Next-Day Soup or Baby, It's Cold Outside!

First Day--

Later from the freezer...a break from cooking over the holidays...........

We don't have many below-zero days in southern Colorado. In fact, our superior weather is one of our best-kept secrets. ("Oh, you have all that cold and so much snow," is what non-residents often say. Mum's the word on 350 days of sunshine a year.) But this week, Gabby goes out to do her business and beats it back in soooooooo quickly. Wouldn't you? It was -8F yesterday morning when my feet hit the floor. And that after a day and night of snow and blow. Had to leave the faucet dripping in the mudroom or we might have had, like many, broken pipes. A furnace bought last year has kept the house at 65, but we had to stay away from the windows!

Tracks are from two lost dogs......

We also had a trio of bobcats visiting our yard (before second snow) for the second time this year. The mama (I think) weighed in at about 40 pounds, I'd guess. Two spotted younger ones at 25-30. Life here is beautiful, but it's cautiously beautiful. You can barely see the mom? in the center of the yard near the little fence before the snow began; she blends right in. No amount of fooling around in the photo program improved the pic.

The resident neighborhood bear has, I think, hibernated. Well, she should have anyway! Our garbage remains undisturbed and that's one sign of no bears.

Meantime, Advent cookie baking continues for DROP IN AND DECORATE, coming up on Monday, December 14, 4-7pm. Looking forward to decorating some great cookies with all of you (rsvp if you haven't already) ... The Bridge, a local assisted-living facility, is the lucky recipient of your good work. SEE YOU SOON!!

While it's so cold, I thought you might like a good pot roast and next-day beef-vegetable soup recipe. We've enjoyed it for a few days and have shared with neighbors who haven't gotten out in the weather either. You could freeze the soup for a quick holiday-time meal when your family's in town and you'd rather play cards than stay in the kitchen. Stop by your favorite bakery and pick up best-quality bread, double-wrap in aluminum foil and freeze with the soup. To reheat soup, place up-side down container in sink under hot water until soup "pops." Place in large crockpot and let unthaw on low all day. For bread, place frozen, wrapped loaf in 350F preheated oven for 15-20 minutes. Unwrap and slice. Splurge on a little butter.

Butternut Squash Pot Roast

4-5# chuck roast (or any pot roast)

4T gluten-free flour mixture, divided (fine to use regular flour)

2 large onions, sliced

2T canola oil

2-3 c red wine

2 c gluten-free beef broth (or regular broth)

1# butternut squash, peeled and cut into 3-4" pieces

3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2" pieces

3 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-2" pieces

5-6 sprigs fresh thyme or tsp dried thyme; 2 lrg sprigs rosemary or 1/2 tsp dried

Kosher salt and freshly-ground pepper

1/4-1/3 c water

Heat oil over medium-high heat in dutch oven or stockpot. Cover roast with 2T gluten-free flour mix and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Don't be stingy with seasoning this big piece of meat. Brown meat well on one side for several minutes. Turn meat and add sliced onions. When second side in nicely browned, add wine and broth. Reduce heat and cover. Simmer for about 2 hours (or place on low in crockpot for 6 hours after adding vegetables below).

When meat is just beginning to be a little tender, add vegetables, thyme and rosemary to the pot for the last hour of cooking. When everything is fork tender, remove meat and vegetables to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm.
Skim extra fat from top of drippings in the pot. To a 1 c glass measuring cup, add about 1/4-1/3 c cold water. Whisk in other 2T gluten-free (or regular) flour mix. Whisk the flour/water slurry into the drippings and bring to a boil for about 2 minutes until gravy is thickened. Season with salt and pepper. Serve over meat and vegetables.
Beef Vegetable Soup for Next Day or for Freezer

2 large onions, diced
1 c celery, diced
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2" pieces
2 T olive oil
3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 Bay leaves
Kosher Salt and freshly-ground pepper
2 qts gluten-free chicken broth
1 qt gluten-free beef broth
1 qt water
Leftover gravy
32 oz can chopped tomatoes
1 c fresh, frozen or canned green beans
1 c finely chopped cabbage
1 c fresh root vegetables or winter squash (Iused leftover parsnips and butternut squash)*
Leftover root vegetables from pot roast meal
2 c leftover pot roast meat, cut into 1" pieces
1 c small pasta such as tubetti or elbow macaroni, gluten-free if needed
Hot Sauce to taste

In a 10-12 qt stockpot, heat oil over medium heat and add onions, celery and carrots. Cook 8-10 minutes, stirring often, and add garlic and bay. Saute briefly and season with salt and pepper. Add remaining ingredients; stir well. Bring to boil and reduce heat. Simmer until vegetables are nearly tender, adding water or extra broth as necessary to keep soup from becoming too thick. Add tubetti and continue to simmer until pasta is tender. Season with a few drops (to your taste) of hot sauce and more salt and pepper if needed. Cool completely and ladle into large freezer container. Freeze for up to one month.
*Potatoes or sweet potatoes would work as well.

Wine: Cotes du Rhone
Dessert: Peppermint Ice cream, of course
Stay warm; stay well. Keep your Advent journey well-fed. If you share your Advent plate, it won't get too full. It's a crazy season. Pick the couple of things you like most to do and skip the rest. Turn down the lights; put the candles on. Invite your friends and family. They won't see the dust. They don't care anyway; they just need to know you want to be with them. Ok, wipe down the bathroom sink if you have to.

Advent Listening: We try to change out our cds daily to listen to different music every dinner. Three on the stereo right now are

THE HOLLY AND THE IVY Clare College Choir/John Rutter



Gabby wants to know if I'll post a picture of her and her new friend, Anna ( who recently adopted some good human friends of ours):

Gab and Anna, seeing who has the best Christmas outfit................... Or ----

Anna says,"Not the Mama!"
Sing a new carol; Dave and I have written one. New problem: how to share it on the blog..


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Lemon Chard Chicken or Cooking for One in One Pan

First--an update on DROP IN AND DECORATE:

You can see I had some great help over the past couple of days and am much closer to being ready for DROP IN AND DECORATE, coming up at my house on Monday afternoon, December 14, 4-7pm. If you haven't heard about it yet, DROP IN is a nation-wide program to bring people together decorating cookies for nursing homes, group homes and so on. You can check out the last blog on this site for complete details and a little history of the eight-year program.

My lovely young helpers worked all day Saturday making dough, cutting out cookies and baking them in my wondrous oven with three racks. We kept the music coming for hours and took a great break at Poor Richard's on Tejon for pizza midday. Many thanks to Heather and Joshua, who are already excellent bakers thanks to their Mom and Grandma. We even had enough cookies for me to take a tray to a party last night. Can't wait to see you with bells on, ready to sling some icing and red and green sugar around the kitchen, while playing and singing (or listening to) heart-warming homemade Christmas music from students and friends.
Apologies for photos; my camera died. These are from my cell.
--- --- --- ---

Meantime, a girl has to eat. This week, I cooked up another single pan dinner luscious for one or two people. I've had a couple of friends ask me lately about cooking for one and realize that most folks, even if they are cooks, do not like the idea of cooking for themselves. If you don't believe this, think about the number of pre-made meals now available in grocery stores everywhere. Think about the shopping carts you've seen fairly full of frozen, microwave dinners. EEck. The pre-made meals are expensive and really, are they young or old? I mean, who knows? And who knows what's in them? The microwave low-calorie meals are cheap, but they taste like microwave, low-calorie meals. Why not cook a little? You really don't have to cook much. You do have to take the time to shop for yourself, but could go twice a week and make do. You're worth it. And, you surely could always invite a friend or neighbor if you don't like eating alone. (I've come to enjoy it and savor the time to listen to music or read quietly.)

I have a number of simple meals for singles or duos on the blog, but need to go back and make sure I've tagged all of them appropriately. The category is called Cooking for One or Two, which can also be for one with leftovers, of course. With this post, I also will begin tagging meals Gluten-Free thanks to a lovely young woman I re-met at a party last night. I cook and post Gluten-Free often, but have not been awake and aware enough to create a tag until now.

On to the Lemon Chard Chicken. While this sounds like fine summer fare, I ate it one night when it was about ten degrees. (It's 17 degrees F and snowing right now.) It's light, refreshing and the chicken makes for great sandwiches next day. The recipe makes enough for leftovers and sandwiches for one or just plenty for two people. Do not forget to eat the sauteed lemons; they are sweet and succulent and nothing like raw lemons. Yes, you, too, can put a "smile" of lemon in your mouth and suck on it. Really.

Cook's Note: Set table, light candles and pour wine first; this cooks very quickly.
Wine: I had an open bottle of Joel Gott Zinfandel, which paired nicely. A light Chardonnay would also be tasty. Perhaps even a Sauvignon Blanc. On a cold winter's night, stick to the zin, my friends.

Dessert: Well, at my house there are plenty of cookies right now. Why not bake some for sharing? Ok, get a roll of refrigerator sugar cookies from the grocery if you don't want to bake. Why not?


1T olive oil
1/2 large onion, sliced
1 stalks celery, sliced thinly
1/2 lemon, cut into 1/4s
Kosher salt and freshly-ground pepper
3-4 skinned boneless chicken breasts
Large bunch Swiss Chard, big stems removed, sliced 1/2" thick
1/2 c cherry tomatoes, cut in half (save 1/4 c for garnish)

In a large (12 or 14" diameter) skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and celery and saute for 10-12 minutes until nearly tender. Meantime, wipe down chicken breasts with paper towel and season well with salt and pepper. Moving vegetables to the sides of the pan, add chicken and lemons. Brown chicken well on one side and turn over. Add chard on top of other vegetables and stir gently. Season vegetables with salt and pepper. As chard wilts, after 2-3 minutes, add half of the cherry tomatoes. Cook until chicken is just cooked through and chard is nicely wilted. Plate and top chard with rest of fresh tomatoes. (Don't forget the lemon!)

Stay warm and well on your walk to the stable this year, if that is your tradition. Hear all the music you can. Remember to take a few cds to your car or download some great holiday tunes to your I-pod. Find time to sit and watch the "Christmas" trees full of snow out your window. Bundle up and walk, taking part in what Barbara Brown Taylor calls "the spiritual practice of putting one foot in front of another..." Take a friend to lunch, meet another for coffee, smile at the tired store clerks and thank them warmly with your great smile. Go to free concerts. Make "fast fudge" and eat some. Where's that recipe of your grandmother's that you've been going to make forever? This is the year. Don't wait. Weren't you finally going to try baking some yeast bread? Today. New cookies from a December magazine? Is this the year you'll take a day off to cook a couple of holiday meals and put them in the freezer?

Sing a new carol; bake a new something______; light your eyes, loved ones,

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Drop in and Decorate

. ---Bake whatever you like to bake.. But they MUST be cookies!!! --


It's a great time of year to gather your friends and do something great together... This year, I'm hosting a cookie decorating event (soup supper included). Folks all over the country are doing the same things as part of the "Drop in and Decorate" event, begun eight years ago by Lydia Walshin of The Perfect Pantry. (information below.)
My fun time --and I hope you'll be part of it!-- is:

Monday, December 14, 4pm-7pm-- Alyce's House

Piano students and friends are invited to come decorate some (already baked) cookies to be donated to a local assisted living center for Christmas. I'll have a pot of soup on the stove for a light supper. We'll share some Christmas music... You can sing or play or just listen!!!

If you'd like to come and haven't heard from me already, drop me an email and I'll give you the details. I do need rsvps so I know how many cookies to bake. I have some small helpers coming this weekend to cut and bake with me; I hope we don't eat them all!!

Read the blurb below to learn how it all got started.
Why not gather a few friends or family members and decorate?
Don't like to bake from scratch? Get some rolls of sugar cookies and pre-made icing at the grocery. Go for it. Someone wants your cookies!!!!
Sing a carol or two as you bake for someone,

Event Information:

Lydia Walshin of The Perfect Pantry is a woman with lots of good ideas and so many of them do lots of good, like her brainchild, Drop In & Decorate, which is now in its eighth year.
The program is brilliant and fun: Bake a bunch of cookies, invite your friends to come decorate them with you and then donate the cookies to a nonprofit group in your community. As Lydia says, "It's a simple idea in a complicated world and something anyone can do."
This year, Pillsbury is donating 50 VIP coupons, worth $3.00 each off any Pillsbury product to be distributed (first come, first served while supply lasts) to anyone who plans to host a Drop In & Decorate event. And Lydia says she'll include a Comfort Grip cookie cutter, donated by Wilton, to people who plan to host cookies-for-donation events.
Contact Lydia ( ) for information on free coupons and cookie cutters.
Visit The Perfect Pantry to find out more about Lydia and all that she does.
Go to the Drop In & Decorate site to download a free guide to hosting your own party.
And, most important: Have fun!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Pumpkin Soup--Making up for Thanksgiving Weekend or Moving from Thanksgiving to Advent

There's a happy feeling nothing in the world can buy
When they pass around the coffee and the pumpkin pie...
Unless, of course, they passed around the coffee and the pumpkin pie once too often. I still have some pumpkin and pecan pie left in my refrigerator. Also one slice of the Italian Chocolate-Hazelnut torte; I promised the last slice to my son... Luckily, the rest of the leftovers are gone, G-O-N-E. Except for the extra pan of Cauliflower Gratinee that's in the freezer. (Somewhat like gold in Ft. Knox in our house.)...and the two or three homemade crescent rolls that I couldn't throw away. Could you?
This week marks the week half the people in the United States say, "The diet starts today; I don't care about the holidays." Maybe you won't stick to that after all, even if you are still full. But perhaps you'd like something light, delicious, healthy and capable of using up a bit more of the canned pumpkin you stockpiled because you heard (here) there'd be a shortage. You're in luck.
I've got a scrumptious, somewhat unusual pumpkin soup that will serve for a super week-after-Thanksgiving dinner or as a first course for some December meal. You can double it and use it for both; it freezes beautifully. It's done in under a half an hour, but can simmer longer if you want to smell that incredible aroma a bit longer. You certainly could throw it in the crock-pot and have it wafting all day long while you decorate, clean (I clean now, not in the spring) or go off to work or the stores. It's great if you've decided, against all odds, to switch three rooms in your house right now, as I have.... What was I thinking???? What possesses us to totally create havoc in our lives during Advent? Answers welcome.
( Cook's Note: If you choose the crock-pot route, add the milk right before serving and let heat a bit longer.)
I know, I know. You almost made pumpkin soup for Thanksgiving and it's in a lot of restaurants. I'm guessing chances are you DIDN'T make the soup for Thanksgiving and, if you had it in a restaurant, why not try this recipe? I think you might like it better if you make it yourself. I did. Leave out the peanut butter if doesn't sound good to you.
Sides: Cranberry Muffins, of course
Wine: Off-dry or halb-trocken Riesling
serves 6 for a 1 c first course; served 3-4 for main course
1/2 large onion, halved again
2 stalks of celery, cut into thirds
2 large carrots, unpeeled, cut into large chunks
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
1/2 c fresh parsley
1 apple, peeled and cut into 1/4's (reserve peel)
6 sage leaves (1/2 t dry)
2 sprigs thyme (or 1 t dry)
1T olive oil
15 oz can pumpkin
2 t peanut butter
1 qt chicken broth, low sodium
1/2 c evaporated non-fat milk
1 t salt; 1/2 t pepper
3-4 drops Tabasco, to taste
Garnish: 4T freshly grated parmesan
2T chopped peanuts
Pulverize first eight ingredients (onions-thyme) in food processor until almost pureed. In stockpot, pour olive oil; heat over medium heat. Add pureed vegetable mixture and apple peel; saute 7-8 minutes, stirring frequently. Add pumpkin, broth and peanut butter. Bring to boil, stirring. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 10 minutes. Remove apple peel. Add evaporated milk and season to taste with salt, pepper and Tabasco. Heat through and serve in warmed bowls. Top with either parmesan or chopped peanuts or both.
Our hearts are light as we travel from giving thanks to preparing to welcome a much-needed savior into our hearts...
Starting the walk to the stable and singing a new song,

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thanksgiving-An Intimate View

Thanksgiving by Walt Waldo Emerson

For each morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything thy goodness sends.

Visiting my friend Sue last month, we talked a little about Thanksgiving.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"I don't know; I haven't decided. I would so like something really simple," said she.

"I know exactly what you should make," said I.
Well, of course, I had the idea and, truthfully, had done something like it before, but I had to flesh out the menu and, naturally, try it all out. And, while I adore Thanksgiving, I know it can get out of hand. You don't know it's gotten out of hand until you start the dishes and are still washing glasses the next day. Mostly, it's worth it. Occasionally, though, you want a holiday to BE a holiday for everyone, including you. Well, you and one other person, a special one.

This menu is for that Thanksgiving. I include directions for a Thanksgiving for two, which is delectable. To be two, I mean--and, yes, the food, is, too. I'd say it's more for two with plenty of leftovers, so perhaps I'd say there's enough for four people. The whole thing easily doubles to serve eight and so on. I began cooking this meal at 6pm and we sat down (after taking boocoo pics) at 8:15. I had time in there to have a glass of wine and a couple of teensy starters, though I did have to set the table earlier in the day. I think it could have been done more quickly if I had had the recipes worked out ahead; I was improvising and writing as I went. If you try it, let me know the time!

I had so much fun doing this meal. Isn't that what it's about? Hope you do, too.


  • Starters:Olives and Pistachios--set out in small bowls with wine
  • First course: Pumpkin or Butternut Squash Soup (bought from deli)
  • Main course: Turkey Roulade, stuffed W/ Proscuitto/Sage/Onions/Garlic
  • Sides: Oven-Roasted Root Vegetables with Fresh Rosemary
  • Brussel Sprouts (pan-roasted) w/ Parmesan & Pumpkin Seeds
  • Home-made Spicy Cranberry Sauce w/ Apples and Lemon
  • Bread: Corn Muffins from the bakery
  • Dessert: Pumpkin Ice Cream, purchased from grocery OR Pumpkin Custards baked the day before and refrigerated (Use any pumpkin pie filling recipe and bake custards in pammed ramekins about 30 min. at 350---No crust)
  • Drinks: Wine: A to Z Riesling and Sineann Pinot Noir- Have both! Coffee: French Roast, laced with Cognac and Whipped Cream
Cook's Hint: Get the turkey and root vegetables in the oven and then make the brussel sprouts and cranberry sauce. Set the coffee up to be ready to push the button as soon as the meal is done. If you had no time to set the table, get your friend to do it while you cook! He or she is in charge of the wine, too. Why not?


2 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2" pieces
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1" pieces
1 medium onion, cut into eighths
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1" pieces
1 turnip, peeled and cut into 1" pieces
5 new potatoes, cut into fourths (don't peel)
2T olive oil
1t Kosher salt
1/2 t freshly-ground pepper
3T fresh rosemary, minced

Place all vegetables on a large, rimmed baking sheet, mixing them well. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and rosemary. Using your hands, toss. Bake about 40 minutes until tender. You can cook these at the same time you roast the turkey; times are similar. Put these in the top oven rack and put the turkey in the bottom of the oven.


1 boneless turkey breast 3-4 pounds
6 slices proscuitto
3T olive oil, divided
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 T fresh sage leaves, sliced very finely
Kosher Salt
Freshly-ground Pepper

Preheat oven to 400 F.
In a small skillet, cook onion for five minutes in 1T olive oil. Add garlic and sage and saute until onion is limp. Set aside.

Lay turkey breast out flat and roll with a rolling pin until breast flattens out a little. You might need to pound it lightly. Salt and pepper the turkey well. Lay the proscuitto on breast, one piece at a time to cover, and top with the onion-sage-garlic mix. Using both hands, roll breast up gently to form a roll @5 " thick, placing seam at bottom. Cut four 15" pieces of kitchen twine. Slip each piece of twine under the turkey roll and tie roll together gently in four places, spacing the ties out evenly. Salt and pepper well.

Place other 2T olive oil in roasting pan and warm over medium heat on stovetop. Gently remove turkey roll to the pan and brown for 4-5 minutes, searing meat. Turn over and salt and pepper that side as well. Brown again for 4-5 minutes.

Place in bottom third of 400F oven and bake another 35-40 minutes until thermometer registers 160. (Your root vegetables are in the top of this oven) Remove from oven and let rest five minutes or so. Slice into about eight slices or as you desire.

If vegetables are done, you can still leave them in to keep very warm while the turkey rests.


12 fresh brussel sprouts, cleaned and trimmed (Take l layer of leaves off and
cut off bottom tiny core) and cut in half
2T olive oil
1/4 c Parmesan cheese, "grated" in long pieces with a potato peeler
1/4 c pumpkin seeds
Kosher Salt and freshly-ground pepper

In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat and add brussel sprouts. Stirring frequently to avoid burning, but still to brown nicely, cook brussel sprouts for about 10 minutes. Add parmesan and pumpkin seeds. Turn down heat to medium-low and cook until sprouts are fairly well-done, but still somewhat crispy. Take care to not burn the parmesan; it should be quite brown. Salt and pepper well.

Homemade Spicy Cranberry Sauce with Lemon and Apple

1 package fresh cranberries
1/2 c brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 lemon, cut into fourths
1/2 large apple, diced, leaving peel on
1/8-1/4 t red pepper flakes to taste

In large, deep skillet, place cranberries. Add water to cover well only. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Let boil 2-3 minutes and lower heat to simmer. Cover and simmer until fruit is tender and liquid is syrupy, about 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room-temperature. Also good cold.

--Cook's Note:

Easy to serve the meat and all the vegetables on one big platter:

Very easy!!! Here are my pumpkin custards.... Pie without crust.

"There's a happy feeling nothing in the world can buy:
When they pass around the coffee and the pumpkin pie."
(well, almost!)

Some Thanksgiving Books You Might Enjoy (in no order):
CRANBERRY THANKSGIVING, by Wende and Harry Devlin. (New York:
Simon and Schuster, 1971; also Aladdin Paperbacks, 1990)
This book contains a great cranberry bread recipe....

GIVING THANKS: THANKSGIVING RECIPES AND HISTORY, FROM PILGRIMS TO PUMPKIN PIE, by Kathleen Curtin, Sandra L. Oliver and Plimoth Plantation. (New York: Clarkson Potter, 2005)

THANKSGIVING 101, by Rick Rodgers. (New York: William Morrow, 2007; also in 1998 by Broadway Books)

HAPPILY GRATEFUL, compiled by Dan Zedra and Kristel Wills (Seattle: Compendium, 2009)

THE FIRST THANKSGIVING by Jean Craighead George; illus. by Thomas Locker. (New York, Putnam, 1993)

Some random thoughts about Thanksgiving------

Thanksgiving as a spiritual discipline or as a way of life is something quite interesting and lovely on which to meditate. Try it; I'd love to know what comes up.
Here are a couple of my thoughts:

I think thanksgiving is a way of living responsibly...

As a faithful person, I know I am healthier when I have a grateful heart. To not be grateful in all circumstances introduces the possibility of becoming a victim-- to which there is no solution or cure.

When I live thankfully, I then live in a better place in all ways.
We all just keep working on it!
Thanksgiving, it's not just for dinner anymore.

Sing a new song as you give thanks,